On July 28th, 2020, GU Politics welcomed four prior White House Chiefs of Staff for a look at how presidents handle different crises across the country.
On Tuesday, students and moderator Mo Elleithee, GU Politics Executive Director, came together for a digital discussion with: Mack McLarty – Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, Andy Card – Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush, Denis McDonough (SFS ’96) – Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama, and Mick Mulvaney (SFS ’89) – Chief of Staff to President Donald Trump.
These four former Chiefs of Staff shared the particular strategies, successes, and failures of their administrations in facing national crises. They provided insight on what happens inside the White House, from coordinating relevant agencies to managing national communications and the uniquely intangible, important effort of the President to unite the country. In particular, McLarty focused on the Oklahoma City bombing, Card on the September 11th attacks, McDonough on the Benghazi compound attack, and Mulvaney on COVID-19. Most importantly, you must roll with the punches and “you cannot freeze in place,” said McLarty.
On the coronavirus pandemic, Mulvaney said, “We were operating with bad information about what the disease was, and we got that one piece of information that had to change the way we were dealing with the crisis” referring to late February data from Italy on the virus’ capability for asymptomatic transmission.